Drilling down on: at Chivas USA 1, FC Dallas 1

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Man of the Match: Dallas remains mathematically alive in the playoffs only because of Kevin Hartman. Among his seven saves was one absolute stunner on Juan Pablo Angel’s sharp half volley.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Dallas remains mathematically alive, but the odds are awfully long. Long story short, Vancouver just took a very big step toward its initial MLS playoff appearance. Dallas was without Brek Shea and Jackson, and George John was only fit enough for a second half appearance. That said, FCD simply does not look like a team right now that deserves to be in the playoffs.
  • Another match for Shalrie Joseph at center back, his second consecutively for Chivas USA, this time alongside Bobby Burling.
  • Ricardo Villar got his first start for Dallas since early in the season. Then he was a creator, the assigned replacement for David Ferreira. Sunday, Villar was stationed along the outside, filling in for the injured Shea.
  • The Chivas USA defense, shredded with regularity lately, was shredded immediately as Blas Perez put a sharp header on goal that Dan Kennedy did well to push wide. Right after, Perez got in behind the Goats back line, although nothing came of it. And immediately after, Ferreira timed a run in behind the back four and Chivas USA was behind within eight minutes on Perez’s tap-in off a rebound.
  • Forced so early out of the defensive bunker, Chivas began pressing the visitors. Only a tremendous, athletic goal-line clearance by center back Hernan Pertuz kept the game from going level just before the 20-minute mark.
  • After the goal, Dallas got the tactics all wrong. They sat back too defensively – and then went even more defensive in the second half. Thing is, that’s not how the team is built. The players are mostly technical, more comfortable in possession than in rugged defending.
  • Besides, perhaps someone needed to remind the men from Dallas that this was Chivas USA and not Barcelona FC. To keep pressing, to keep their foot on the home team’s throat and get that second goal was the way it had to be. Chivas is an absolute mess, probably in for the mother of all organizational and roster overhauls in the off-season, and is subsequently vulnerable to that kind of pressure. Rather, Dallas’ defensive crouch handed Chivas a way into the game.
  • Fabian Castillo, playing wide right for the injured Jackson, continues to be impressive in his ability to generally make the wrong decision with the ball on most occasions. More than a few attacks died with one of his turnovers.
  • Juan Pablo Angel’s second-half introduction changed things for Chivas USA, adding sophistication in the runs and the movement in Dallas’ back third. Two quality saves from Hartman kept Angel from scoring within 25 minutes of his entrance. Then, one of his well-timed runs helped create enough chaos and confusion around Dallas’ six-yard box that got the Goats their equalizer. That was just their second goal in more than a month.
  • Ferreira is playing OK, but he is not the arresting, peerless creator from two years ago before the injury. It could be the team around him, too; the pieces just aren’t assembled as well, the balance not nearly as useful. It’s also about familiarity of the pieces around him; Dallas’ injury situation hasn’t allowed anything close to a settled lineup around their DP playmaker.
  • And frankly, it would help if Dallas players made just a little more effort to find him with the ball. Too many times, the Colombian attacker is available, working the angles and spacing for players around him, but ultimately unused.

Manuel Pellegrini takes the reins at West Ham United

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West Ham United was said to be chasing Rafa Benitez, and instead got a manager with more recent big time success.

Manuel Pellegrini is the new boss at West Ham, returning to the league which saw him guide Manchester City to a Premier League title and two League Cups.

[ MORE: Man Utd after pair of mids ]

The 64-year-old Chilean is well-traveled, and most recently managed Hebei China Fortune. He was released from his contract with the Chinese Super League side last week.

Pellegrini has also led Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Malaga since arriving from South America in 2004.

From WHUFC.com:

“I think that West Ham had a difficult season last season and I hope that next season we are going to play football that will delight the fans. I always play attacking football and we must try to reach important targets in the season.

“Every time you have a meeting you have feelings about whether it was a good meeting or a bad meeting and I had the meeting with him, just talking about football and talking about West Ham.  We agreed on a lot of things he wants for this Club in the way I think a football club must be managed, so we have a lot of common ideas.”

Pellegrini is missing more than a few elements to play the way he’d like to play, and his arrival could spell the end for long-time players like Mark Noble. It could also be a boon for Pablo Zabaleta as the former Man City pair is reunited in London.

West Ham has spent freely in recent years, and Pellegrini’s status could help it land a breed of player unavailable to Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic, and David Moyes.

Transfer rumors: Man Utd after pair of midfielders; Liverpool eyes Lascelles

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The transfer rumors continue as players hope to have their futures sorted ahead of next month’s World Cup.

Manchester United is being linked with a pair of big money midfielders.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Anderson Talisca, 24, could be leaving Besiktas to join United following a $47 million offer, according to Metro. His 14 goals were fourth in the Turkish Super Lig and his seven assists tied for the team lead. He scored four more times in eight UEFA Champions League matches.

And then there’s highly-sought box-to-box midfielder Jean Michael Seri of Nice, linked with United as well as Manchester City. Club president Jean-Pierre Rivere hinted that the 26-year-old would certainly be headed somewhere this offseason.

Mika Seri is … a very good player who has brought a lot to the club and can legitimately have that desire to go and play abroad.”

— Liverpool could really strengthen its center back situation by buying captain Jamaal Lascelles from Newcastle United, though the hinted fee of $19 million seems low for an integral part of the Magpies’ back line (especially given that English players usually net higher fees on account of being English).

And Lascelles has said Newcastle “is the right club for me at the right time. We have a huge fanbase, an amazing manager, and this club is massive. It has so much history.”

The Chronicle also said Liverpool is also looking at Burnley star center back James Tarkowski, and that Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has his eye on 19-year-old Sevilla mid Alejandro Viedma.

— A wild rumor out of Diario Gol says Alvaro Morata is set to fight for his starting role at Chelsea and is encouraging Real Madrid buddy Marco Asensio to join him at Stamford Bridge. The report says Asensio would be an important part of any Chelsea sale of Eden Hazard.

— Cardiff City is said to be signing Hamburg striker Sven Schipplock when his Hamburg contract expires in June. He did not score for HSV last season.

Brighton adds Nigerian World Cup defender from Mainz

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Brighton and Hove Albion has added some depth to their center back pairing of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy.

Leon Balogun has arrived from Mainz, the 28-year-old Nigerian heading to the World Cup and then hitting the Amex Stadium on a free transfer.

[ MORE: Zidane praises Ronaldo ]

Mainz avoided relegation by three points this season, and Balogun played in 14 matches. He had been with the Bundesliga outfit since 2015, and has 16 caps.

Balogun has also spent time at left and right back.

Ezequiel Schelotto just finished his first season as a Brighton right back, playing 28 times, but also moved up the right side. Bruno played plenty there as well, but is 37 years old.

Gaetan Bong and Markus Suttner split time at left back. All four of the players will be with the Gulls next season.

Brighton already had a top-half defense in terms of goals allowed. This should only help that.

Xabi Alonso: Liverpool-Real to be “such a special game”

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Xabi Alonso is part of a unique brand of footballer to have played with both Liverpool and Real Madrid.

The retired 36-year-old spent five seasons with each team, winning a UEFA Champions League with both, and now will watch his alma maters tangle for a UCL crown on Saturday.

[ MORE: Zidane praises Ronaldo ]

Alonso said he’s just rooting for “an unbelievable game to watch,” and seems like he’ll be happy either way.

“I have feelings for both clubs. I was lucky enough to win this trophy with both clubs so for me it’s difficult to pick one and I will be happy whatever happens, that’s for sure. For Liverpool, for Madrid [they are in] different circumstances, but it’s such a special game.”

The Spanish legend also seemed a bit torn as to whether Real’s experience or Liverpool’s newbie excitement could tilt the scales:

“For the Real Madrid guys, it’s the opposite. They have played so many finals in the last few years, so they can manage the situation better. Later it’s just 90 minutes for both sides, whatever happens. But the build-up is different.

“For sure it’s good to have that experience. But it’s good as well to have that excitement, that hunger, but you need to control as well the over-relaxation and the over-motivation.

“You need to find the right point of activation for the game. That’s not difficult because you know what it means to play in a Champions League final and you don’t have many chances during your whole career, and that’s one of the key psychological sides of this game. And the emotional side is almost as good as the football side.”

Maybe it’s simply playing both sides of the fence, and there’s no shame in that, but it does seem a hard match to choose. Both have been wildly inconsistent in league play as well as the group stage, but have been quite good in the knockout rounds.

It’s hard to pick against Real, but that’s why they play the games.